|****, occupied West Bank
On **** 2023, a 16-year-old minor from **** was arrested by Israeli soldiers from home at 2:30 a.m. He reports ill-treatment and being denied his basic legal rights. He reports being held in solitary confinement for 30 days. He was released in a prisoner swap deal on 24 November 2024.
Israeli soldiers raided our house at around 3:00 a.m. on 24 May 2023. I heard sounds around our house and I looked out the window and saw a group of soldiers outside. Then the soldiers knocked at the door and I answered. About 30 soldiers entered our home; about 10 of them were wearing masks.
A soldier asked to see my identity card and then took me aside into another room and asked me about our neighbourhood. Then one of the soldiers blindfolded me then tied my hands behind my back with one plastic tie which was very tight and painful. It left marks on my wrists for days. A soldier struck me in my chest with the back of his gun.
The soldiers searched our house without giving any explanation. They caused damage to the wardrobes and the beds and the tables. They also searched the garden and dug some holes. They did not tell us what they were looking for.
The soldiers remained in our house for about one-and-a-half hours. During this time, they held my family in one room. Then they questioned my mother. They asked her about me and about the neighbours; they wanted to know who lived in the neighbourhood.
After about one-and-a-half hours the soldiers told us they were going to arrest me. They did not say why. My mother wanted to say good bye to me and give me a hug. At that point the soldiers let go of me and decided not arrest me. I was relieved and so was my mother and the rest of my family.
The following night my sister woke me up at around 2:30 a.m. and told me soldiers were in our house again. I thought I was dreaming and told her to leave me alone because I wanted to sleep. Then I opened my eyes and saw a soldier standing over my head. It took me a while to realise it was for real and not a nightmare.
Our house was full of soldiers with more outside near some military jeeps. The soldiers were accompanied by service dogs. Thankfully they did not bring the dogs into our home.
The soldier standing over my head asked me for my identity card. Then the commander asked me for my mobile phone. The soldiers searched our house again and caused more damage to the furniture. They threw our clothes on the floor and did not leave anything in the wardrobes. They also took everything out of the refrigerator, broke the refrigerator and then went into the bathroom and broke the flush in the toilet. They broke plates and cups in the kitchen. Like the night before they did not tell us what they were looking for. My two sisters, who are 11 and 18 years old, were terrified.
Later a soldier tied my hands to the back with one tight plastic tie, blindfolded me and took me outside. The soldiers did not give a reason for my arrest and did not give us any documents. My sisters cried as I was dragged out of our house.
Once outside I was taken to the back of a military jeep where I sat on a seat. I was taken to the nearby settlement of Bracha. At the settlement I was left outdoors until around 11:00 a.m. I was not given any food or drink and did not have access to a toilet.
At around 11:00 a.m. I was driven to Petah Tikva interrogation centre, in Israel. I arrived there at around 2:00 p.m. I was strip searched before being taken to a small cell where I spent 30 days in solitary confinement.
The cell measured about 1.5 x 1.8 meters. There were no windows and the light was sometimes left on and sometimes turned off. I asked the guard for the time to know whether it was day or night. There was a synthetic mattress on the floor. I tried to keep my morale up by praying and reading the Quran, but it was not easy; 30 days is a long time to be alone. During this time, I was interrogated on a daily basis, sometimes for up to 13 hours.
The first interrogation session was on the day after I arrived. I was interrogated while I was hand tied. The interrogator was in civilian clothes. He had a camera and a voice recorder in the room but I did not see him turn them on. I asked to speak to my parents and to a lawyer before he started to question me but he refused.
The interrogator told me I had the right to remain silent and explained it to me. Then he accused me of throwing stones and gave me a specific date for the incident. He told me my friends had confessed against me and he named them. I denied the accusation. He then lost his temper and swore at me and threatened to keep me in solitary confinement for 60 days. He also threatened to add to my charge sheet things I had not done. He questioned me for about four hours and did not ask me to sign any documents.
This was repeated on a daily basis. I never spoke to a lawyer The first time I saw a lawyer was in court. I was only informed of my right to silence once. Although the first interrogator made it sound like it was in my interests to remain silent I did not because after so many days in solitary confinement I was desperate to speak to anyone.
Each day I was interrogated by a different interrogator; sometimes by more than one at the same time. I was asked to sign a document on the eighth day. I signed after it was translated for me. I was exhausted and towards the end I confessed to throwing stones.
I continued to be interrogated even after I confessed. The interrogators wanted me to give them information about my village. There is an archaeological site in my village and Israeli settlers have their eyes on it. That is why lots of people from my village have been arrested.
After spending 30 days in solitary confinement I was transferred to Megiddo prison, also in Israel. I was strip searched when I arrived before being taken into the minors’ section.
My first military court hearing was about a week after my arrest. My family did not attend the hearing because they were not informed and my detention was extended. I had about 13 court hearings. The last one was on 28 September 2023. During that hearing I was sentenced in a plea bargain to seven months in prison and fined NIS 2,000. I was also given another 10 months in prison suspended for two years. I accepted the bargain because my lawyer told me it was a good deal.
My parents visited me three times before the 7 October events when all family visits were suspended. I also attended classes in Arabic, Hebrew and mathematics. I was allowed to call home twice a month from a telephone provided by the prison authorities. The phone calls were also suspended after 7 October 2023.
Conditions in prison became unbearable after the 7 October. Prison guards were on high alert and treated us roughly and with disrespect. I was once punched in the face by a guard and beaten with a baton. I bled from my nose and mouth and I could not eat for several days.
On the third day of the war a unit of prison guards stormed into our cell and searched it. They took away the radio and television and the hot plate on which we cooked our food. They closed the cantina and did not allow us to buy food and other supplies. They closed the classrooms and stopped the lessons.
After 7 October the prison authorities also put more prisoners in our cell; sometimes we were 12 people in the cell, compared to six people before the war. I was totally disconnected from the outside world and heard nothing from my family. We knew about the war in Gaza from the prisoners who were arrested after 7 October.
The food we were given was often cold and the quantities were not enough; sometimes they gave us one plate for eight people. I often went to bed hungry. Hot water was disconnected and we only had electricity from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
On 24 November 2023, at around 6:00 a.m., I was taken out of my cell and put in a waiting room with other boys. We were left there for about two hours. Then we were each taken in turn for a meeting with the intelligence officer responsible for our areas. The intelligence officer for my area told me I was going to be released in an exchange deal for the return of Israeli hostages. He told me that any mistake I make, any involvement with a political party and any involvement in throwing stones would result in my arrest. He told me to sign a document to this effect and I signed.
After the meeting with the intelligence officer I was taken in a troop carrier to Ofer prison, near Jerusalem. I arrived there at around 1:00 p.m. I waited until around 8:00 p.m. and then I was released together with other boys. We were taken to Betunia municipality building, near Ramallah, where my parents met me. I could not believe it when I saw them. It was a chaotic scene. The parents were not given clear information about the time or location of our release. Some young men lifted me up on their shoulders and that was when my parents saw me. I came out of prison with a beard and it took my mother a moment before she recognised me.
We arrived home at around 10:30 p.m. My mother had cooked a nice dish and I ate with some relatives and friends. We did not really celebrate because an eleven-year-old boy from the village had just been shot dead by Israeli soldiers.
The hardest thing about this experience was the prison conditions after the war. I had nothing, just the clothes on me, a mattress and a blanket and I was disconnected from my family. I was released on 24 November 2023, about a month before I was due to be released anyway. My parents did not have to pay the NIS 2,000 fine because I was released in the prisoners’ deal. The authorities never gave me back my cell phone.
* Some information in this testimony has been concealed as some minors report being threatened if they speak publicly about their experience in prison following their release as part of the prisoner swap deal post 7 October 2023.